- A Christian Testimony
- ‘Sifted Like Wheat’
- Author and Pastor Steven Birnie
Sifted Like Wheat – Before I begin, this isn’t really a basic teaching by any means and it’s an event which not every Christian will go through, this testimony today is for the Christians who have or will be exercised in the following way. The pinnacle and changing point of my life with God came around three years ago when, after a seven year season of God sorting out the most major issues in my life, he finished that work with a situation the bible refers to as a “sifting like wheat”. Sifting like wheat is a situation where, by the permission of God, the devil is allowed to have access to a Christian’s life to exercise and test their faith for a short period. There’s two great examples of this in scripture which explain quite fully the event, the process and the conclusion.
The first example is that of Job in the Old Testament, Job was a righteous man in the eyes of God and one day, Satan came along to God and asked him if he could test Jobs faith. God agreed, but with the condition that Job not be killed or permanently hurt. What followed, as I’m sure you know, was one of the most horrific strings of events that could happen in a persons life, Job lost everything, his family, his lands and his livestock not only that, he was covered from head to toe in boils. It’s a hard account to read until you come to the end, after God had turned up and showed his great glory and perfection, Job repented having received a tremendous revelation of the person of God. When Job repented, the devil had to leave and God restored Job with twice what he had before and he went on to live a joyous, prosperous life.
The second example was that of the Apostle Peter, Jesus actually told him that Satan had enquired of God, that he be allowed to sift Peter like wheat, but Jesus told Peter that he himself had prayed for him that his faith would not fail. Peter’s sifting came in the form of him denying Jesus three times resulting in Peter’s foundation being ripped away from him. Peter had said to Jesus that he would follow him anywhere and that if need be, he’d die with Jesus. There was no doubt, Peter truly meant what he said but Jesus knew that if it actually came down to it, Peter would fail. This situation devastated Peter, so much so after three years of walking with Jesus, he went straight back to fishing.
Both of these instances are very similar and you can find other such events throughout scripture, but with these two, God had a very definite plan and purpose in mind. Satan had only one, to be allowed into these lives and to try and utterly destroy their faith, God had several. You see there’s something we need to be very clear about here, sifting like wheat is an event which comes along not by the freedom of the devil but by the permission of God, the devil’s goal to destroy you, God’s goal is to destroy you. In both situations, with Job and Peter, God had many goals but the main one, was to remove that part of a man which holds him back from experiencing him and not only that, set them free into the life God has for them, the pride and arrogance of man.
You see the devil comes in this way not because of a lack of your own faith but because you are displaying so much faith in God. Job and Peter were fully convinced about God and his righteousness but God had to change that self confidence into true, Godly boldness and the results were clear to see. When God restored Job, Job received back twice as much as he had before and the Word tells us that he went on to lead a great life. In the case of Peter, God removed that human self confidence that brought Peter’s sword out in the garden to a massive boldness in Jesus Christ. Peter went on from being one of Jesus greatest followers, to become the rock of the Church.
If God has a plan and purpose for your life then all that “self” needs to be removed, self-gratification, self-confidence, self-assurance and so on, not to make you miserable and broken, but to get it out of the way so he can fill your life with Godly satisfaction, Godly boldness and Godly assurance. You see self will fail but Godliness will remain. For Peter and Job this was their path to letting go and giving themselves to God, it doesn’t mean that everyone will have to, but some will and that’s what this testimony is today.
Now for my own experiences of this, I’ve been putting my own testimony off about this for some time because recounting the experience is really hard. I’ve heard people say they have been sifted like wheat and they seem to talk about it so easily, I think if they had been truly sifted, it wouldn’t be something so easily said. I have difficulty talking about it and it just seems like today I have a window of boldness to share with you exactly what being sifted like wheat feels like so here goes, deep breath…………
This is so hard to write, I can’t really remember how it started but I remember how it felt and most important of all, how it ended. It’s so difficult to describe, sifting like wheat means to be shaken violently back and forth, from side to side and up and down, relentlessly with no rest or quarter. It feels like your very foundation has been ripped out from underneath you, and that you are just totally raw and exposed with no control over how you think or feel. Your mind feels no peace and it doesn’t matter what you try and do whether it be prayer or scriptures you think of, nothing works, you just keep being shaken and shaken until there’s no strength left within you. The impressions you feel from the powers of darkness are so strong and it takes everything, just to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
This experience was just horrific and I couldn’t even think of an end to it far less pray for it. One day though a close Christian friend called Pastor Jim dropped off to me a testimony and teaching called “The Eclipse of Faith” which described to me the sifting of wheat experience. It described everything I was going through giving examples from scripture of Jeremiah, Isaiah and of course Peter and Job. Now you’d think it would have been an amazing feeling finally getting this revelation but it wasn’t, I was so broken and beat up I just read it and threw it aside. It had the advice I needed though, it says in James that if any man lacks wisdom in the struggle he is facing, let him ask God and he’ll tell you.
So, I went away up the stairs, rehearsed what I might say to God and closed my eyes, immediately God said, “you already know why this is happening”, in an instant I knew exactly what he meant. He’d given me a scripture a few years ago about the pride and arrogance of man and within a few seconds, I could see so clearly the kind of pride I had, I just couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen it before, but what I saw sickened me and immediately I repented. Just as quickly as God had revealed to me the reasons, was the moment the whole sifting experience stopped and slowly I began to recover.
I was so glad God has shown me this pride and arrogance and at often times, anger and fierceness, something I was glad to see and have removed from my life. I was badly shaken though, my very foundation was now broken for ever, all of my self-confidence and arrogance had gone and I felt like I had nothing to rely on. It was then God really came into my life and gave me his strength, his boldness and his assurance, it was then I felt like I had a true and immovable foundation. Like Job and Peter, he came and ministered to me, restored me and healed me and little did I know, but my life was about to change in a big way.
- In the months after I was healed of my disease and before long I was back to work and God began to restore to me twice what I’d lost. Not only that I began my Pastoring work within the body of Christ, I lead people to Christ, Pastored the youth, I taught public teaching seasons within the Church, wrote the books and created this website and most of all, God blessed us with our new baby Emily. You see none of these things were possible before when I relied on my own self-confidence, they may have worked for a while but at some point they would have just failed. No, God had to remove those weak things so he could install his own Godly boldness, for me to truly reach the things that he had promised me and was now providing for me. Now I can still suffer a little pride and arrogance from time to time but now I can see it for what it is and friend, I’m so glad to be free of it. I feel now like a broken man but in a good way, I know now that nothing is really possible without God being the full strength in the activity or situation and I know now how pointless it is to rely on my own strength. I suppose you could say that I just feel like I’ve let go and that I don’t really want to pick it up again, Jesus said if a man looses his life, then he’ll save it. I don’t really want my old life or character traits back, I’d much rather have what I have now.
If you are reading this today and feel a tremendous fear then friend please don’t worry too much, I only know a few people who have been through this kind of experience, I think purely because pride levels vary from person to person. But if you are reading this today and it’s spoken to you big time, then I can quite boldly say to you that this marks the end of your season of being sifted. This testimony is there to serve those who are in the sifting experience, that need the answers but probably most of all, a mark point, where you can be sure the season has come to an end. Let me tell you brother or sister, you were sifted because of your faith and devotion to God, not the lack of it. God has had to take you through this to rid you of the poisonous “self” traits you have so he can bring you forward into the promises he has for you. I’m not sure what point you are in the process or how you feel at the moment, I remember feeling even after the experience was over that I didn’t really want to follow God any further if this is what it takes but friend (and this is important), just let go and allow God this new season to build you back up, to heal your heart and install within you his great character. You’ll begin to feel so much better and like Job and like Peter, he will restore your life and take you in directions you never thought possible.
You’ve been sifted for a reason and the reason is that you have a major calling on your life, a calling that just won’t work on self-confidence but on the strength and the boldness of God’s Spirit, the only way that Spirit can operate, is when ourselves our out of the way and removed. God bless you and feel better today, it’s over…..
“….No matter how old this Article becomes, I’ll still answer any comments you might have on this subject so please comment any time…”
Author and Pastor Steven Birnie